Gun toting Russian spy Maria Butina, who seriously played Trump Conservatives, now turns on them

Accused Russian spy Maria Butina revealed she was cooperating with U.S. investigators when she pleaded guilty as part of an agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
The 30-year-old Russian national agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate a law governing foreign agents operating in the United States, and she appeared Thursday morning in court to enter her plea
Butina, a former graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., cultivated close ties to the National Rifle Association and the conservative movement.
She admitted to conspiring with Republican operative Paul Erickson and a Russian official, believed to be banker Alexander Torshin, to establish unofficial links between political figures in the U.S. and Russia that would benefit the Kremlin.
Torshin reportedly sought a meeting between Russian president Vladimir Putin and then-GOP candidate Donald Trump, and he met with Donald Trump Jr. in May 2016 at an NRA dinner in Louisville, Kentucky.
Court documents show Butina worked to established ties with both the NRA and the Republican Party, and she helped set up a visit to Moscow by NRA members in December 2015.
She also organized a Russian delegation to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and hosted “friendship dinners” to establish closer ties to American conservatives and Russian officials.
Butina can also be seen on video asking then-candidate Trump about U.S. sanctions against Russia during a July 2015 Freedom Festival event in Las Vegas.

A report this week by NBC News that suspected Russian spy will plead guilty to violating laws regarding government agents operating within the United States is the worst news Donald Trump has faced in months, but not for the reason many think.

Butina will reportedly admit to conspiring with a Russian official believed to be Alexander Torshin “to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics . . . for the benefit of the Russian Federation” (Torshin recently retired from being a deputy director of the Russian central bank). She will also admit to attempting to influence the National Rifle Association and “Political Party 1,” believed to be the Republican Party. Butina will admit to setting up a meeting between senior officials of the NRA and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in December 2015, in the early months of the Trump campaign. She later reported to Torshin, “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.” Butina has been indicted by the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, whose investigation was separate from that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, so you would think that would come as good news to Trump. But Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was also charged by the D.C. U.S. attorney and the for the Eastern District of Virginia as well, and it is known that Mueller has been cooperating with the U.S. attorneys for D.C., Eastern Virginia, and the Southern District of New York as well. So the fact that Butina is pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate means that Mueller will be a beneficiary of what she knows about Russian influence in the election of 2016. But even that isn’t the worst news Trump got this week.

No, what Trump should really be worrying about is what Butina’s guilty plea says about his friend Vladimir Putin in Russia. Butina was obviously operating as an intelligence agent of the Russian state, and she wouldn’t be agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators for Mueller or anyone else if she hadn’t been given the go-ahead by her bosses back in Moscow. Butina faces a sentence of zero to six months under the federal statute she was charged with, and even if she ends up serving time, she will be deported immediately upon her release from prison.

Marina Butina wouldn’t have anyplace to go in Russia if her handlers at the Kremlin hadn’t told her it was okay to tell U.S. prosecutors everything she knows about how her attempt to influence American politics worked from 2015 through 2016. If Putin has decided to cut Butina loose, he’s cutting Trump loose as well.

Trump, whose approval ratings as of a poll by CNN this week stand at 39 percent, may have supporters, but he has a diminishing list of friends. He has lost numerous members of his cabinet to either scandal or resignation. His White House staff is in complete disarray. Not even Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Trump’s Vice President, would agree to replace departing chief of staff John Kelly. He’s holding onto his support among Republicans in the house and senate only because of their fear that his rabid right-wing supporters will turn on them. And now he’s lost the one friend among world leaders he could count on, Russian president Putin — maybe Trump saw this coming, Putin didn’t exactly go out of his way to give him the love at the recent G-20 summit in Argentina.

The beneficiary of all of this is of course Special Counsel Mueller. Sometimes it’s useful to take a moment to see how we find ourselves where we are today, so let’s have a look at how Robert Mueller got to be such a busy, busy man.

Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel flowed directly from Trump’s firing of James Comey on May 9, 2017. Comey had appeared before the House Intelligence Committee several weeks before, on March 20, and testified that the FBI had been running a criminal and counterintelligence investigation of “persons associated with the Trump campaign” since July of 2016.

When Comey testified later before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he refused to publicly clear Trump in the FBI investigation. He also dismissed Trump’s contention that the Democratic National Committee emails could have been hacked by “China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”

“The intelligence community with high confidence concluded it was Russia,” Comey testified. He also refused to answer several questions about whether Trump himself was under FBI investigation, leaving open the possibility that the president himself might be a focus of the investigation.

Angered by Comey’s refusal to clear him in the FBI Russia investigation, Trump met with aides later that week at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and concocted a letter justifying the firing of Comey. After meeting with White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump arranged with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for a letter justifying the firing of Comey.

The next day, May 9, Trump fired Comey, citing Rosenstein’s letter critical of Comey’s handling of the announcements of the investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email server. The following day, Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kislyak was already known to be a focus of the Russia investigation because of Flynn’s conversation with him on December 29 about lifting Russian sanctions. No American reporters or photographers were allowed into the meeting with the Russians. Russian media present in the Oval Office later reported that Trump had told the two Russian diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The sources said Trump also told the Russians, “I am not under investigation.”

On May 11, Trump gave an interview to NBC News anchor Lester Holt and blew up the entire edifice his aides had spent two days building around Comey’s firing, discounting the Justice department’s reasons entirely: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

One week later, on May 16, Trump interviewed former FBI Director Robert Mueller about taking the job of FBI director again. The very next day, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Counsel in the Russia investigation.

Last week, sentencing memos were filed on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. And this week, Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.

With all of the guilty pleas and sentencings in court this week, speculation has been flying that Special Counsel Mueller is reaching the end of his investigation. Don’t believe it. The Washington Post reported this week that 14 Trump friends, associates, and campaign and transition officials had contacts with Russians during the 18 months of his campaign.

Every single one of them lied about Russia. They started out by flatly denying they had any contacts at all with any Russians. Then they admitted they had a few, but the contacts were innocuous. When numerous meetings with Russians came to light, they said the contacts didn’t amount to anything. When it turned out the contacts were serious, they began denying there had been any “collusion” with the Russians. Trump made it a refrain, that there had been “no collusion” with Russians during the many times he now had to admit his people had met with them.

Robert Mueller, who has indicted and/or taken guilty pleas from 33 individuals and at least three companies, is turning from indictments of Russians to indictments of their American counterparts. He is focusing his investigation not on “collusion,” but on conspiracy to defraud the United States of America. That’s what he indicted 13 Russians who worked for the Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg: conspiracy “to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

Mueller indicted 12 Russian military intelligence agents for “Conspiracy to Commit an Offense against the United States” by hacking into Democratic Party emails and to “stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” He accused the Russians of using false identities and making false statements to hide their connections to “Russia and the Russian government.”

Mueller has been after a conspiracy between Trump and the Trump campaign and the Russian government all along. And he’s using fraud and conspiracy statutes under the U.S. Code to do it.

Mueller is going to connect Donald Trump and his campaign directly to the government of Vladimir Putin. This week, with the guilty plea of his agent Maria Butina, Putin appears ready to help him.

Robert Mueller has never cared about “collusion.” All he has cared about is breaking the law, which Donald Trump has done plenty of. Trump can tweet all he wants, but he can’t stop the big truck coming straight at him driven by Robert Mueller.

She’ll be treated as a returning hero back home in mother Russia


National security expert Malcolm Nance told MSNBC on Thursday that alleged Russian spy Maria Butina will gladly throw her network under the bus with her guilty plea, since the rewards are so great.

“The reason I think she’s pleading guilty is because one, she’s never going to get out of the United States if U.S. law enforcement draw her as a spy,” Nance said, pointing to Butina’s legal jeopardy. “She has had liaison with Russia’s foreign ministry, she’s had diplomatic meetings while she was in jail.”

“It’s easier for her to burn the network that she had in order to see that she gets a sweetheart deal and deportation (from) the United States, where they will laud her as a hero of the Russian Federation,” he continued. “I think she will give up all those Americans she manipulated to get to Donald Trump.”

From Raw Story


Trump is taking a sledgehammer to the Clean Water Act

Trump said he wants to see “crystal clean water” in the United States. but, his administration is going to release a plan to roll back Clean Water Act protections on millions of acres of waterways and wetlands that do not flow year-round — the nature of many upstream waters in California and the arid West

Trump administration poised to strip protections from up to two-thirds of California streams and millions of acres nationwide

Trump’s plan is to vastly scale-down the Clean Water. Administration officials said nearly two years ago that they had begun the process of reversing the rule

This signals that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to strip federal protections from many of the nation’s wetlands and streams that do not flow year-round. The administration has not challenged the accuracy of the talking points.

At stake are billions of dollars in potential development rights, the quality of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and rules that affect farming in much of the country, as well as wildlife habitat for most of the nation’s migratory birds and many other species.

Under Trump’s plan, the Clean Water Act’s protections would no longer apply to most seasonal ponds, wetlands and streams, including those that form major parts of drinking-water systems and fisheries throughout the nation, particularly in the arid West. As many as 1 in 3 Americans drink water derived in part from seasonal streams that may no longer get protections, according to scientific studies the Obama-era EPA relied on in writing the original rule.

In California, where many significant stretches of fresh water dry up in the summer, as much as 66% of the state’s freshwater streams could lose federal protection. The waters would continue to have protection under state law, but few states are in position to replace the regulatory systems currently run by federal officials.

Trump administration officials reject the federal data that show as many as 66% of the freshwater streams in California — and 81% in the arid Southwest overall — could lose Clean Water Act protection, saying the Obama EPA lacked enough specifics to back up that estimate.

“The Trump administration’s plan would preserve protections for some seasonal streams that regulators would classify as “perennial and intermittent tributaries to traditional navigable waters.” Protections would also be preserved for wetlands adjacent to navigable waters.

Administration officials have declined to specify how many streams fall into the “intermittent” category.

The issue that has generated battles through four consecutive administrations involves how far upstream the government’s reach can extend.

Environmentalists have pushed to extend protections to seasonal waters, seeing them as key resources for healthy ecosystems. Agricultural and real estate interests have pushed back hard, complaining of intrusions by heavy-handed bureaucrats.

Farmers have argued the rules could force them to get costly and cumbersome permits just to dig a drainage ditch. Developers warned the new restrictions could needlessly complicate home building.

They are joined by mining and oil companies seeking to limit the reach of environmental rules that hold the firms accountable for industrial activities disrupting streams and wetlands.

“You can’t protect the larger bodies of water unless you protect the smaller ones that flow into them,” said Ken Kopocis, who is a former chief at the EPA. “You end up with a situation where you can pollute or destroy smaller streams and bodies, and it will eventually impact the larger ones.”

All of the historic federal water cleanups have involved repairing damage that was done to intermittent streams flowing into a major navigable river or lake, he said.

Environmental groups warn the new Trump rules would restrict the EPA from any enforcement, leaving the job entirely to the states and giving some of the most crucial bodies of water the least amount of protection they have had in decades.

“It is hard to overstate the impact of this,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, an advocacy group.

“This would be taking a sledgehammer to the Clean Water Act and rolling things back to a place we haven’t been since it was passed. It is a huge threat to water quality across the country, and especially in the West.”

Edited from the Los Angeles Times

This weeks delusional Dumb-ass award goes to Trump and his loony friends at FOX news

Lyin’ ass Trump retweeted a completely false claim from Charlie Kirk that some protesters in France had chanted “We want Trump.”……………………That never happened.

Tucker Carlson agreed with the claim of his guest that feminists are trying to “disappear males” from the planet.

Fox & Friends lauded Trump’s pick of former Fox anchor Heather Nauert as UN ambassador, saying that she is “very smart.” (She thought D-day was the high point of US-German relations)

Laura Ingraham went on an off the wall crazy rant about the left, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and child pornography (she really scares us)

Ingraham compared people who protest Confederate statues to ISIS.

Fox guest and GOP Rep. Louis Gohmert went on an anti-Semitic rant about George Soros that the Fox host later tried to distance the network from.

Lou Dobbs called climate change a UN plot. (of course, he did)

A Fox host complained that people who rely on government programs like food stamps don’t feel enough shame.

Sebastian Gorka called the Democratic Party “fundamentally un-American.” (he would know)

NRATV said that coverage of school shootings contributes to “the wussification of America.”

from Media Matters


Trump is so terrible he is even dividing the far right!

Ammon Bundy Is Quitting The Militia Movement After Breaking With Trump On Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

“The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don’t want to associate myself with warmongers.”

For more than six years Ammon Bundy and his family amassed hundreds of followers and supporters willing to pick up a gun at a moment’s notice and rally to their side for their anti-federal government confrontations

Bundy led two armed standoffs against the BLM in Nevada and Oregon, and his family quickly became the face of a growing far right-wing militia movement, bringing a national spotlight to armed groups eager for a conflict with what they believed to be an unlawful and overreaching US government.

These militia groups have members that hold a mix of extreme right-wing, anti-government, and paranoid conspiratorial views. These type groups have been growing since 2008 thanks to the binding racist opposition to then-president Barack Obama and their heavy use of social media. The standoffs in 2014 and 2016 made the Bundy family, including Ammon, leading figures in the movement.

So when he logged on to Facebook recently to speak to his supporters in defense of the Central American migrant caravan at the southern border, which has been frequently vilified by their racist leader Trump, he figured he’d face some criticism.

“To group them all up like frankly, (Trump) has done — you know, trying to speak respectfully — but he has basically called them all criminals and said they’re not coming in here,” Bundy said in the video. “What about individuals, those who have come for reasons of need for their families, you know, the fathers and mothers and children that come here and were willing to go through the process to apply for asylum so they can come into this country and benefit from not having to be oppressed continually?”

Bundy went so far as to, dispel their favorite conspiracy theories like that billionaire George Soros was behind the caravan or that terrorists were using the group to sneak into the US.

The backlash from his supporters was immediate, with many attacking and repudiating Bundy for his views. People who had traveled to his father’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 during an armed standoff with federal agents over unpaid cattle grazing fees said they regretted doing so. Others claimed Bundy was being paid by left-wing “globalists” to switch sides. Some told him they wished he was dead, or that militias had never supported his family.

So now, Bundy shut down his social media accounts and said he was stepping away from the public light and the “patriot groups” that had gained national attention while supporting the Nevada ranching family. The decision to quit wasn’t an easy one, Bundy said, but the movement’s unforgiving opposition to the migrant caravan and what he called a dangerous and blinding support of Trump left him with no choice.

Bundy’s sudden exit marks a defining moment in the so-called “patriot movement,” one his family helped bolster over the past four years. Members of militia groups would talk about being part of the Bundy standoffs as a point of pride, a sort of street cred for the militia.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said far-right groups, including alt-right and militia gatherings, have begun to show divisions and fractures since the 2016 election. Many involved in the groups united in hatred and full opposition to the Obama administration, then to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and later in support of Trump. But Trump’s victory has left the groups without a target

“Once it changed from an insurgency into something else, the expectations for the far-right changed “The militia movement has been in this weird space, unlike anything it’s experienced in its previous history because someone they supported is the head of government,” he said.

The unequivocal support for Trump by his followers is a big concern, Bundy said, and a factor in his decision to step away from the movement.

Those on the right have been so fanatically loyal to him that any word of opposition to shine a light on what he might be doing that is incorrect draws hate,” Bundy said.

He then took it a step further, comparing the support of Trump’s base to that of Adolf Hitler’s.

“The time we find ourselves in now that is closest found in history is Germany in the 1930s, and they had a leader that was loved, and it was the same kind of following,” he said. “I don’t want to say there is that extreme similarity, but it very well could go that way, and people just give up their thinking, their rights, and they give up their government because they were so willing to follow him.”

Other militia leaders who previously rallied to Bundy’s side have called him in recent days to privately offer support and protection, he said, after his family received threats over the Facebook video. Some, Bundy said, told him they agreed with his views critical of Trump but did not want to air their opinions publicly for fear of facing a similar backlash. For now, Bundy doesn’t want to be associated with the militia movement and said he was considering writing a book about his experience.

“I think they have their leader,” he said. “I think, you know, Trump is clearly their leader, and I think wherever he tells them to go, they’ll go.”

edited from a story in BuzzFeed by Salvador Hernandez

(Thanks to reader and commenter Joe6pac for the tip)

Getting tired of winning so much yet?

Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but he has no apparent substitute for containing Iran’s aggression. We are isolated from our European allies. Trump says he wants to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but NAFTA 2.0 is not ratified (nor is it likely to be), and in any event, it isn’t dramatically different from the original. We’re out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but not out of a trade war with China (although tariffs are not rising quite yet).

Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, declared the nuclear threat gone and wants to meet again. North Korea, however, has not shown it is prepared to denuclearize. Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris accord; the other world leaders are meeting in Poland to discuss steps forward without the United States. Meanwhile, the climate change problem becomes more urgent with each passing year, according to the administration’s own report.

Our European and North American allies scorn and distrust Trump, revile his pullout from international agreements and his erratic trade threats, and rightly see him as unable to lead the West in an existential battle against illiberal regimes.

Russia remains in Ukraine and now is making a play for control of the Sea of Azov. Iran and Russia dominate Syria. The war in Afghanistan drags on without clear purpose.

Let’s be blunt: The only significant foreign policy “achievements” Trump can claim are eviscerating our reputation as a reliable ally that defends human rights and giving autocrats the impression that they can get away with murder (and dismemberment and more) without paying any significant price.

This is an administration that can claim not a single substantial foreign policy achievement. We are arguably less influential and more isolated than we were when Trump took office. (The irony is that we presently mourn the death of President George H.W. Bush, who masterminded the transition from the Cold War, the reunification of Germany, the ouster of Panamanian thug Manuel Antonio Noriega and the construction of a broad coalition that achieved victory in a Middle East war without getting bogged down in a long-term occupation.)

The Washington Post reports:

His [Buenos Aires] performance — coupled with his listless two-day visit to Paris days after the midterms, during which he skipped a visit to an American cemetery and appeared isolated from other world leaders — has created the impression of a leader scaling back his ambitions on the world stage amid mounting political crises.

“The problem at the moment is he has no agenda,” said Thomas Wright, a Europe expert at the Brookings Institution. “He ticked through his bucket list of everything he wanted to do and declared victory on all fronts. What does he do now? They’ve not really thought it through.”

This is what comes from nationalistic know-nothingism, from deploring the very institutions and relationships that have kept us from world war and spread prosperity since the end of the WWII. It’s what flows from a foreign policy that amounts to a series of discrete gestures to please his base (move the embassy to Jerusalem, get out of the JCPOA and Paris accord) but lacks an answer to the question that follows each of these moves: What next?

Trump doesn’t know or care. A vision of American leadership? A road map to combat threats from illiberal regimes? Please. All Trump has ever wanted is a red carpet and praise. And even the latter is in short supply these days outside Saudi Arabia and Israel.

by Jennifer Rubin for The Washington Post

“Individual number one” is making conservatives squirm

Corrupt Traitor Trump and his handler Vladdy

Things are ramping up in Robert Mueller’s universe. In recent days, “Individual number one” or Donald Trump has provided written responses to the Mueller team’s questions. On top of that, longtime Roger Stone confidant Jerome Corsi refused a plea deal and faces perjury charges at a minimum. Then on Thursday, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign potentially springing the perjury trap on Trump.

Increasingly conservatives are being put in a lot of very difficult situations and there will be many more next few weeks or months. How they react won’t just determine the Republican Party’s future but, will have a long-term impact on the country.

This is seeming like quite a familiar place for conservatives. The Trump reign has had the effect of pushing conservatives to different corners. Some erstwhile conservatives have become so disenchanted with Trump that they have abandoned previously held positions on issues ranging from climate change and guns to the Iraq War. To them, defending Trump has become so untenable and distasteful that it’s easier to wash their hands of it all.

Others have completely drunk the Trumpism kool-aid. In some cases, this is part of a devils bargain: They get very conservative judges and look the other way on the extreme rhetoric and horrible character flaws. In other cases, there is a lesser-of-two-evils paradigm at play. The left is too scary—the media so biased—that the only way to overcome it all is standing by their (strong) man.  They tell themselves, Trump is far from perfect, but, that Obama and Clinton were worse.

The courageous move would be to stand by enduring conservative principles and remain a person of character who isn’t afraid to call out Trump. That path has always been hard but will be made even harder as the stakes are raise in the weeks ahead.

As of now, it looks likely that Trump is, himself, guilty of collusion at least and probably worse, but what is proven, is that he was surrounded by people who were involved in some illegal and very unethical endeavors. Those endeavors are about to become more public, and the public is about to get a big window into the unseemly underbelly of Trump world.

Conservatives should resist the urge to defend Trump in these moments simply because he has an R next to his name or because he’s being targeted by people who they don’t like.

They should be ready to accept the very real possibility that felony’s and serious misdemeanors were committed and lies were told. Frankly, if it becomes clear that Trump made foreign-policy or public-policy decisions—while in office—based on the fact that he was (a) compromised, or (b) seeking personal gain by virtue of his position, that should be a bridge too far and those acts should be nullified.

Trump has created an environment where every conservative really must be introspective about where they draw the line and at what point they are willing to stand with him. For Republican politicians, it seems highly unlikely that Mitch McConnell will allow any sort of legislation to protect Robert Mueller. But that doesn’t absolve them from wrestling with questions like, what do they do if Trump or his recently installed acting attorney general, actually goes ahead and fires Mueller?

The people, who defend the indefensible—who put “loyalty” to a man (not principle or America) above all else—will not be judged mercifully by history.

taken from pieces in Raw Story and Daily Beast